Rajapaksa’s victory secured, says Sri Lankan official


Colombo : The official result would come only later in the day but Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory in the Sri Lankan presidential poll had been secured, a Presidential Secretariat official said Wednesday.

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Rajapaksa had taken an early lead in the first presidential election since the Tamil Tigers were vanquished after 26 years of bloody war.

“Although the official result will be announced at around 4 p.m., the president’s victory has been secured,” Xinhua news agency quoted an official from the Presidential Secretariat as saying.

Officials from the department of elections said that although the initial results showed the president has got re-elected, the formal result would be announced late afternoon.

As the nation waited with bated breath for the official announcement of the result, heavily armed soldiers encircled the hotel where their former chief and Rajapaksa’s main challenger General Sarath Fonseka was staying.

“We can see about 200 army personnel outside the hotel, but they have not come into the hotel so far,” a witness at the scene told DPA.

Ten uniformed army personnel detailed to provide security for Fonseka surrendered, he said.

The hotel, Cinnamon Lakeside, is one of the five-star hotels in Colombo adjoining the air force headquarters.

Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakakra said that there were no attempts to arrest Fonseka.

“We have information that there are as many as 400 former army soldiers,” Nanayakakra was quoted as saying. “We want to check about their presence and whether they want to create any problems.”

The island’s sixth presidential election was held largely free of violence Tuesday with turnout estimated to be over 70 percent except the Northern Province which had been under the control of Tamil Tiger rebels for decades before it was recaptured by the troops in May 2009.

The department of elections said 14,088,500 Sri Lankans were eligible to cast their votes at 11,098 polling stations from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. to choose their next president mainly from Rajapaksa and Fonseka, though there are 22 candidates.

Rajapaksa called the election two years ahead of schedule to capitalise on his popularity among the majority Sinhalese after ending the island’s bloody ethnic conflict.

Fonseka, who commanded the army to crush the rebels, is equally credited for the victory.